FCC Seeks Feedback on Ownership Proposal

WASHINGTON: The FCC today published the comment period for its proposed rules on minority ownership of broadcast properties. Comments are due June 29; replies, July 13. The commission proposed rules in April that would allow it to gather race, ethnic and gender information on TV and radio station owners. Ownership diversity has long been a pet cause for Acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps.

“Our broadcast media--and they are not alone among our nation’s media--for all their many wonderful accomplishments, are still deficient when it comes to reflecting the diversity of America,” he said in a statement accompanying the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. “The sad truth is that we simply do not know the precise state of minority and female ownership in this country. The official term for it is ‘we don’t have a clue.’ We will never get to where we need to go unless we know where we are.”

The commission started down the minority-ownership reporting road last month with expanded reporting requirements on FCC Form 323. (See “FCC Increases Minority Ownership Reporting Requirements.”)Those included dropping certain exemptions for full-power TV stations and requiring low-power and Class A stations to file the form. Reportable as well as majority ownership interest must now be included on the form, the filing of which becomes a biennial requirement as of Nov. 1.

The NPRM would increase the scope of Form 323 even further, seeking the gender, race and ethnicity data for all stations, including non-commercial licensees.

“We believe that data from the entire universe of NCE stations are necessary to provide a comprehensive picture of broadcast ownership, including ownership by women and minorities in the broadcast industry,” the NRPM states.

The FCC’s proceeding combines several dockets, but the primary one is No. 07-294. The FCC’s comment search site indicates that the issue has already generated 130 responses, most regarding the previous dockets folded into the current NPRM. -- Deborah D. McAdams